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Emory Healthcare Telemedicine Based ICU Care Saves $4.6 million in Medicare Costs over 15 Months

Following an audit of Emory Healthcare’s telemedicine platform for its intensive care unit, Emory Healthcare saved around $4.6 million in Medicare expenses while simultaneously reducing post-discharge care and readmissions.

The results have followed a 15-month audit by Abt Associates of the eICU program deployed by Emory Healthcare based in Atlanta, Georgia. The program served more than 20,000 patients in this time frame in five hospitals.

“These independent findings verify that our innovative approach to addressing a highly variable, complex patient population – those in the critical care unit – improves patient outcomes, allowing them to leave the ICU healthier, thereby reducing the need for patients and their families to have extended rehab stays or be readmitted,” said Timothy Buchman, director of Emory Healthcare’s Critical Care Center, in a recent press release.

The Royal Philips telemedicine platform that Emory Healthcare uses provides critical care to 136 patients in five hospitals. In the audit, this system was compared to nine other Atlanta-area hospitals. Findings show:

  • $1,486 reduction on average in Medicare costs over 60-day stay, adding to $4.6 million in 15 months;
  • 4.9 percent less discharges to home healthcare;
  • 6.9 percent less discharged to long-term care and skilled nursing facilities;
  • 2.1 precent less readmission within 60 days.

In the press release, Manu Varna, business leader at Philips Wellcentive and Hospital to Home, says the findings conclude increased stability with reduced complications even after a patient discharged from ICU.

A similar eICU study at UMass showed 21 percent higher case volume and 376 percent higher contribution margins. Tele-ICU programs owe their success to an increased patient volume and higher quality care. The tele-ICU programs combined with a logistical center studied thus far indicate:

  • 38 percent higher case volume
  • 665 percent improved contribution margin

Emory Healthcare tried a new spin on eICU by partnering with Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia this past fall through spring, creating a network spanning two continents. This allowed clinicians to cover Emory’s eICU nighttime shifts while it was daytime in Australia and on weekends.

This helped test theories that quality of care drops during off hours when clinicians are not fully awake and thriving. The second theory is that off-hours shifts are typically covered by younger and less-experienced clinicians that lack seniority to avoid inconvenient hours. Studies have indicated that both these theories are valid.

Emory Healthcare should release results of this recent partnering soon.